London UK Legislation on the use of lead-based solders and components is being ignored by the UK electronics industry according to ERA Technology. A survey carried out by the company on the transition from tin/lead solders to lead-free solders, and to lead-free components found that only 3 per cent of companies have developed lead-free products, 9 per cent of companies have started trials with lead-free solders and half admit they don't understand the impact of banning lead-based solders
Many manufacturers know little about the implications of the 'Restriction of use of certain Hazardous Substances' (RoHS) directive and know even less about the problems that can occur with lead-free soldering. From July 1st 2006 a European Union directive will bans lead in a wide range of products.
In the survey over 150 small, medium and large size companies were questioned. On the positive side 87 per cent of the sample at least knew about the RoHS directive, and half had contacted one supplier. But half also admitted to having very little understanding of what the directive required of them. A quarter of companies did not even know if their products were affected.
Out of the 23 contract electronics manufacturers in the survey, only nine had even been asked about lead-free soldering by any of their customers.
In addition to replacing the solders used there are implications from the higher temperature lead-free soldering requires which could damage components. Some components also contain lead, and these, too, will need to be replaced. Although some lead-free components are available, many of those still use tin/lead terminations.
Some component manufacturers surveyed admitted that they would not have replaced all of their lead-containing components well in advance of the RoHS directive deadline of 1st July 2006.
The survey through up another concern is how companies need to demonstrate compliance with the RoHS directive. This is not mentioned in the directive and no standards exist. Several companies said that this issue alone could be prohibitively expensive.
Many companies surveyed by ERA use sub-contractors for their printed circuitboards (PCBs), and are relying on them to find solutions. A few PCB manufacturers have carried out limited trials with lead-free solders, but most have not.